15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 8
Week 8 marks the halfway point of the season for many NFL teams, and we’re very close to moving into the second half and the subsequent playoff run. That means that things are starting to get real in many of the divisional races, and teams are going to have to start considering the implications of each win and loss even more than they were before.
Several other teams find themselves at a crossroads. There are quarterback decisions to be made and maybe even some coaches whose seats are getting progressively hotter. The scrutiny is getting more intense every week, and Week 8 was no exception.
Here are 15 of the biggest disappointments from the week’s NFL action.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
It’s looking like the Buccaneers are clearly nearing the end of the line with Winston, who may have finally exhausted their patience on Sunday. He threw four interceptions, including a pick-six, none of which were the result of bad luck. He was careless and reckless with the ball and was rightly benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who nearly led them to a comeback. It remains to be seen whether he sticks as the starter, but the odds seem to be long.
Ty Montgomery, KR, Packers
If you’re trailing with two minutes to go and need a game-winning drive, there are few quarterbacks you’d rather have than Aaron Rodgers. It looked like he was going to get his chance. Then, with 2:05 left and the Packers down two, Montgomery decided to try to bring the kick return out of the end zone and get some extra yardage. He proceeded to fumble, which the Los Angeles Rams recovered, depriving Rodgers and the Packers of the opportunity to launch a game-winning drive. It was an inexcusable set of mistakes that may well have cost Green Bay a victory.
Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
Thielen has continued to rack up huge stats — he has 8 straight 100-yard receiving games — but he had a horrible mistake that turned the tide in Sunday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints. Minnesota was up 13-10 and in the red zone with just over a minute to go before halftime. The Vikings were about to go up by two scores. Kirk Cousins completed a pass to Thielen, who lost a fumble that the Saints picked up and returned 54 yards. The Saints ended up with the ball at the Minnesota 18 and scored two plays later to take a 17-13 lead. They scored 20 unanswered points after the fumble, stretching the lead to 30-13. The fumble was the biggest play of the game.
Cleveland Browns’ offense
It’s never going to be a good week when it starts with your head coach seemingly undermining the offensive coordinator in public. Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that Cleveland’s offense was flat on Sunday. The Browns managed just 237 yards of offense, with Baker Mayfield held to just 180 yards passing. Hue Jackson didn’t do much to make things better after the game. It’s pretty clear that something needs to change here.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
Flacco’s early-season renaissance appears to be firmly in the rearview mirror. He managed just 192 yards and threw two interceptions to one touchdown against the Carolina Panthers, with both picks being the result of blatant quarterback error. He averaged a miserable 4.9 yards per attempt in this one, and was actually replaced late with the game out of reach. At this point, Flacco once again looks like what he is — an average quarterback at best who can be really bad at his worst moments.
The Fourth Quarter Oakland Raiders
The Raiders had all sorts of problems in the fourth quarter early in the season, and they resurfaced on Sunday in grand style. Oakland entered the fourth quarter with a 28-21 lead and proceeded to give up 21 unanswered in the final frame, with the first three Indianapolis drives of the quarter ending in touchdowns. The fourth one, the only one that didn’t, was simply the Colts running out the clock. The Raiders actually did a lot of things right in this one, but it makes little difference when their late-game problems resurface.
Doug Martin, RB, Raiders
Martin gets special mention here, as his mistake in the fourth quarter of Oakland’s loss effectively cost them the game. Trailing 35-28, the Raiders got the ball back after Indianapolis’s go-ahead touchdown with 5:17 left. Martin immediately fumbled away the first carry he got, which the Colts recovered and followed up with another touchdown. Martin, the veteran, hasn’t gotten a ton of play out of the Oakland backfield, and though he had a solid game otherwise, this high-profile mistake could shake some of the faith Jon Gruden has had in him.
Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense
Blake Bortles hung in on Sunday and wasn’t really the problem, even though Jacksonville lost another game. The Jaguars’ defense looked like it was up for it early, finally forcing a pair of takeaways, but in the end they allowed 395 total yards and touchdown drives of 95 and 75 yards in the second half. This was supposed to be one of the league’s elite units, and while they showed more flashes this week than they did in the last two, they’re still not playing to their potential.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
Barkley was a factor in the receiving game, catching nine passes for 73 yards. On the ground, however, he offered nothing. The talented Washington run defense stuffed Barkley all day, limiting him to 38 yards on 13 carries despite a game that wasn’t really a blowout until later in the second half. It was his second-worst ground performance of the season, and with how much the passing game is struggling, the Giants can’t really afford Barkley going missing.
Detroit Lions’ special teams
The Lions saw this game get away from them in a wild second quarter that saw Seattle score 21 unanswered points. A big factor in it was Detroit’s special teams play, specifically Ameer Abdullah, who fumbled the kick return immediately after Seattle had made it 7-7. The Seahawks wasted no time with the short field and went ahead 14-7 and never trailed again. The last blow came late in the fourth, when the punt return team somehow let Seattle punter Michael Dickson get a first down on a fake punt from deep in his own end zone. Perhaps things are different if the Lions had played a bit less sloppily on special teams.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
In what was otherwise a good day for the Pittsburgh offense, Smith-Schuster didn’t offer that much. He got six targets but caught only four of them for a paltry 33 yards, his worst performance yardage-wise all season. He was pretty much a non-factor in the second half. Smith-Schuster always has the potential to put up huge numbers in any given week, and the Browns looked like they could have been a decent matchup for him, but it simply didn’t happen.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers
Graham had become a favorite Aaron Rodgers target, regularly putting up pretty big numbers since Week 1. It didn’t happen Sunday against the Rams. Graham was only targeted four times and caught just one of them, a 22-yarder that fell just short of the end zone. Rodgers had a big day without really going for him, which is a good sign for Green Bay overall but not the best sign for Graham. He may have better luck next week against New England.
The 4th quarter 49ers
The 49ers don’t rate as a great team, but they still should have found a way to close out a game that they led 15-3 with 13:33 remaining. Even after giving up a touchdown, they led 15-10 when they recovered a Jermaine Gresham fumble at their own 30 with under five minutes left. The Niners couldn’t keep the ball and run out much clock, and the Cardinals again scored a touchdown to go ahead for good. That’s a deeply discouraging outcome and fourth quarter performance for a team that looks like it’s going to have a hard time picking up many more wins the rest of the way.
Sam Darnold, QB, Jets
Darnold might have perked up a bit upon learning that Khalil Mack wouldn’t be playing for the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but ultimately, it didn’t do much to help him. He again completed less than half his passes and threw for just 153 yards, though he did manage a touchdown and didn’t turn the ball over. As usual, we warn that there are going to be a lot of hiccups for Darnold in his rookie season, but his recent progress is frustrating after some very positive early performances.
Miami Dolphins’ defense
Miami allowed just 52 points over the first three games of their season and have pretty much been a mess ever since. That continued on Thursday night, when Deshaun Watson had his best game of the season against them, throwing for four scores. As if quality quarterback play wasn’t enough to dismantle the Dolphins, Lamar Miller added 133 yards rushing. Miami gave up 427 yards in total, an average of 7.8 per play, and got especially wiped out in the second half when they gave up 28 total points. Things don’t look to be getting better for this team.